I can’t let today go by without marking the passing of Malik Isaac Taylor, AKA Phife Dawg, The Five Footer of hip hop supergroup A Tribe Called Quest fame.
Hip hop was the equivalent of rock ‘n roll for me as a high schooler. My parents didn’t get it, most of my white friends didn’t like it, it was irreverent, and spoke to me on a personal level for reasons I can’t begin to analyze.
Paramount among my favorite rap groups was A Tribe Called Quest, whose colorful video for Check Tha Rhime altered the way I dressed and what I perceived as cool for the next four to five years of my life.
Tribe became my Beatles. My Rolling Stones. I bought tickets whenever they were in town, picked up their cassettes the day they dropped, and most importantly, just road around all night in my baby blue 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass with the top down feeling the wind in my hair, feeling free and young, listening to their albums over and over.
They had a playful, intelligent, laid back vibe that espoused fun and peace. Perfect summertime listening.
Phife and Q-Tip were as inseparable in my mind as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and to hear Phife is gone is to hear Tribe is gone too, and now, I guess a little portion of my youth (if you wanna get existential and maudlin).
RIP Phife Dawg and the summer of ’92.